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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

88                            Egyptian Art
plundered by robbers, close study of contemporary bas-reliefs
and paintings, confrontation of the texts describing gifts made
to the temples, tribute paid by conquered races, presents be-
stowed by the kings on their favourites—all this might have
enabled us to foresee the luxury which was found here. Perhaps
Egyptologists were too cautious and unimaginative when they
treated this evidence as an indication of oriental exaggera-
tion.
A few examples may be given to bring out more clearly this
point of view, which may appear over-subtle. Let us take first
a case which is exceptional in the art of the Old Kingdom. No
study, however complete, of the sculptured objects, in various
materials, to be found in our museums would enable us to guess
that the imprint of a seal on a clay jar-sealing of the First
Dynasty reveals the fact that complicated groups of figures, cast
in gold, were already in existence at this period. A tiny picture
on one of these seals represents King Den standing in a boat
and throwing a harpoon. The tomb of Tutankhamen contained
a perfect Eighteenth Dynasty replica of this design, which had
been in existence as early as the First Dynasty. Here is a further
example. The small ivory figures found beneath the temple of
Hierakonpolis, despite the crushing which they have suffered
and the damage done to them in the process, still make it
possible to realize what perfect works of art they originally were.
Since their discovery, the statuette of Mycerinus in the Boston
Museum has ceased to be an isolated work; it becomes the
culminating point of an artistic technique which was already
used with skill in the time of the earliest dynasties.
One final instance may be added. Documents dating from
the Ptolemaic period describe groups in which the king is repre-
sented in the act of slaying his conquered enemies. This imme-
diately calls to mind the great bas-reliefs in the temples which
depict the same scene." Can we admit that Egyptian sculpture
was capable of rendering, in free-standing statuary, such ani-